One of my very first reviews for the Ear, almost a year ago, was of the YBA Passion IA350 integrated amplifier and the matching CD430 disc player. I was very impressed with them and so when the UK distributor asked if I would like to hear the most recent Heritage amplifier, the A200, it was a pleasure to agree. The Heritage range may be the YBA entry level series, but it is still seriously good and represents exceptional value in the crowded middle market.
Before we get into the review itself, let me just recap on the background of YBA. The company was founded in 1981 by Yves-Bertrand André an uncompromising French designer, engineer and music lover. He is still a driving force in the business, the A200 has a designed in France label on the back, although assembly of the YBA product family is now done in China, the attention to detail and quality of components has never been compromised and YBA pride themselves that their ‘instruments’ are built for longevity and for the musical pleasure of the owner.
Certainly the A200 is a very solid device, weighing in at 9.2kg (just over 20 pounds), it is visually very similar to its Signature and Passion range siblings, with the elliptical front display (albeit without the orange lighting of the more expensive models), a source selector knob on the left and a volume control on the right. The finish is what they call ‘Natural Aluminium’, which is a matt silver, it’s very clean and unfussy.
On the back are two pairs of binding posts and a pair of pre-out sockets. Analogue inputs are labelled aux, CD, DVD, tuner and video and there is also a pair of XLR inputs. The built in DAC can be accessed via an optical or USB input (on an atypical mini USB socket) and there is a Bluetooth receiver built in as well. In other words, this amplifier has connectivity to satisfy most users perfectly well. It doesn’t have a phono stage, so vinyl users will need an external stage for this purpose. The quality of all the sockets is very good if understandably not as deluxe as those on the more expensive Passion amplifier, and the build quality in general feels extremely solid.
Having connected my phono stage and streamer via the RCA inputs and my SACD/CD player via the XLR inputs, I plugged in my speaker cables, attached the supplied mains lead and switched on via the small rocker switch beneath the front panel. I selected a Tidal classic rock playlist and left the amplifier and all the other equipment to get acquainted and to warm up. I try hard not to sit and listen during this phase because it really isn’t fair and I was always brought up to believe that first impressions count. However, it was immediately obvious that the A200 and my Harbeth SuperHL5+ 40th Anniversary loudspeakers were already best mates.
When I did go back in the afternoon to listen, it didn’t take long to realise that the A200 is an exceptional amplifier, and at under £2,000 I think it is a genuine hi-fi bargain. It has pace, rhythm and timing to rival some of its UK competitors but also an effortless musicality which gives every instrument, every voice and every silence just the right weight, conveying whatever subtle nuance of emotion was captured in the original recording session. With a rated power output of 110 Watts, I believe that this amplifier will do a great job with all but the most demanding loudspeakers in the average British home.
During its time in my system the A200 not only partnered with both my pairs of Harbeths (I have a pair of the small P3ESRs as well as the bigger ones mentioned above) but also with a pair of Marten Duke 2s, which were the subject of a separate review a little while back (summary – I loved them!) and a pair of the very retro JBL L100 Classics (which will be covered shortly). In every case the YBA Heritage A200 did exactly what I require of an amplifier – it got out of the way of the music but delivered all the current the loudspeakers demanded of it. It seemed very even handed across the whole frequency range, with precise bass that had plenty of weight, a fine and engaging midrange and a very airy top end. Whatever source I used, and whatever genre of music I played, the YBA delivered it with aplomb.
I used the optical input on the digital side for delivering TV sound through my system. It did a very decent job and may be enough for many users, although the lack of a coax input may be considered limiting by some. I suspect that those who are primarily interested in digital sources would opt for an external DAC in any case. But certainly TV and Blu-Ray sounded excellent for us. The use of a mini USB connector rather than the usual USB B type is limiting when it comes to audiophile cables but Audioquest for one has three models in its catalogue.
During the course of this review I was also checking out a third party mains cable. One thing I would suggest that any prospective purchaser should do is discuss options in that area with their retailer. Spending a little extra on a cable upgrade would be money well spent in my opinion.
Having now spent extended time with two different YBA amplifiers, at different price points, I am extremely happy to report that the Heritage A200 maintains the family tradition. It is a first class device and will give a proud owner many years of genuine musical enjoyment. It has more than enough power for most loudspeakers to play to their strengths in a domestic setting, it is well built and has been meticulously designed by people who really care about music. What more can we ask of any piece of audio equipment?